May 10, 2018
When living on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, a mother and her daughter had a healthy lifestyle. Early each morning they would stroll down to the market and the fishing pier to pick out the day’s menu. Their daily diet consisted of natural foods. Fish, fresh from the sea. From the market, an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, a wide variety of olives and extra virgin olive oil, and a large variety of fresh spices to enhance the flavor of their food. They made their own bread with whole grains and other natural ingredients. Fresh yogurt was always available. Fresh air and exercise, with fresh, natural, whole foods, created a healthy lifestyle.
When they left their homeland and moved to America, one of their biggest challenges was making healthy food choices. They were introduced to “The Mall.” They found this a convenient place where they could find almost anything, including fast foods. These unfamiliar aromas, sights, and smells tempted our new arrivals. This pervasive processed food was far from the healthy diet they had back home.
As they ventured around in their new country, they discovered McDonalds, Burger Kings, Mobil Marts, food wagons, corner vendors and the like. They found themselves surrounded by unhealthy food choices morning, noon, and night. Jump in the car and 10 minutes away there they are ... cookies, candy, chips and treats galore. Oh my! How could they possibly say no to these tempting treats when they were so readily available? It’s like telling a bird not to fly!
Guess what happened? Their pattern of eating everything in sight, as often as they liked, with little physical activity lasted for several months. With the lack of exercise and unhealthy diet, they both gained over 30 pounds. Their health began to deteriorate. They started having stomach problems and didn’t have any energy. They went to a doctor for help. Their lab work showed symptoms of possible chronic stomach issues, elevated cholesterol, low iron (which may cause low energy,) and high blood sugar (which may cause difficulty concentrating.)
Their doctor referred the mother and daughter to me. They were frustrated and depressed. In a few short months they went from being full of energy and in good physical condition, to being overweight, depressed, and unmotivated. The daughter said “temptations are everywhere! I can go out and get something unhealthy and fattening anytime I want. How do I get back in control?”
First, I asked them keep track of everything they ate and drank for a week. I also recommended they start getting some exercise again. Something that they would enjoy doing together, so they could help keep each other motivated.
I also asked them to think about what triggered their overeating. Often, if you can identify the origin of the temptations (a T.V. ad, Facebook posts, supermarket ads, or boredom), you can change your behavior. I like to call it the “Temptation Tidbit List.” I encouraged them to identify when they were tempted to overeat. If they were aware of being tempted, instead of munching down on junk food, they could try to select healthy alternatives, such as nuts, healthy fats, lean protein, fresh fruit, and vegetables.
After I studied their diet history, I gave them a list of whole nutritious foods. I asked them to pick out ones they that they liked. To prevent getting bored with their diet, I told them to select a favorite food and introduce it in small portions daily. This appealed to them because they felt they would be able to follow the new eating pattern more easily. They were willing and eager to start!
In over 21 years as a nutritionist, I have tailored my meal plans to include favorite foods and favorite forms of exercise. I make these meal plans easy to follow when on a business trip, vacation, or social activity.
After 2 months they returned feeling more energetic, healthier, and, oh yes, thinner. They each had lost twelve pounds! They had adopted a daily walking routine like the long walks they took in their homeland. They did confess that their favorite snack were cookies they made from scratch. They seemed happy and motivated and were no longer tempted by all the unhealthy food choices around them. The mother and daughter team were obviously on the road to success.
Once you feel better it’s something you will want to continue for the rest of your life. Life is short, include cookies! But, remember, moderation is the key!
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